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Oswego schools to consider sex ed beyond abstinence-only

Updated: November 16, 2011 12:03PM

If you’re a teenager in the Fox Valley hoping to learn about condom use and other contraceptives, you’d better hope you attend a school outside of Oswego.

The Oswego School District is one of the few districts in the area that still relies on abstinence-only sexual education — a discussion of abstinence as the only way to avoid getting pregnant and contracting STDs before moving on to other health topics.

No mention of condoms. No explanation of hormonal birth control. Not even if a student raises her hand with a question.

Health teachers from both Oswego and Oswego East high schools will present to the Oswego School Board a sample lesson of an abstinence-plus curriculum — one that emphasizes abstinence, but offers accurate information on other forms of contraception — Tuesday for discussion.

If adopted by the School Board, abstinence-plus education could begin this term.

The program involves one additional lesson on the function and effectiveness of condoms in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and of hormonal birth control in preventing pregnancy. Teachers would address how unplanned pregnancies happen and how STDs are transmitted, then explain the mechanisms through which hormonal and barrier methods work, including information on proper use.

According to a presentation prepared for the board, health teachers would conclude that “the only safe sex is no sex,” but should a student choose to be sexually active, they should communicate openly with parents and sexual partners, use protection, limit their number of partners, be tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections and get more information.

The lesson would not involve any demonstrations, and parents would have the option to have their students sit out of the session.

In their presentation, health teachers are expected to argue that the abstinence-plus curriculum is appropriate because of the rate of sexually transmitted diseases locally and support for the program among parents.

According to the Kendall County Health Department, chlamydia was the most widely reported communicable disease in the county last year, with 111 cases — far outpacing the second-most occurring disease, chickenpox, which presented only 36 cases. Hepatitis C and B, both of which can be sexually transmitted, came in third and fourth, respectively. Kendall reported four new cases of HIV infection in 2010.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly half of all new cases of sexually transmitted diseases reported nationally each year are in people age 15 to 24.

Teen pregnancy is nearly as common, according to the Kendall County Health Department. In 2009, 77 babies in the county were born to mothers under the age of 20.

According to health teachers, Oswego community members widely support more comprehensive sexual education. In an online poll conducted by the School District, 82 percent of voters — most parents — said they were in favor of abstinence-plus education.

Surrounding school districts, including both Indian Prairie and Naperville schools, teach abstinence-plus curricula, according to the health teachers’ presentation. Because of the Columbus Day holiday, other area schools could not be reached for comment on their sex education programs.

The Oswego School Board will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the community room of Oswego East High School, 1525 Harvey Road.

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